Can I sell street photos without model releases?

I’ve taken a lot of candid street photos in New York which oftentimes have prominent expressions on character’s faces. Since I do not obtain model releases, and since these people aren’t my “models” per say, how does copyright work in that case? I know I own the photos, but what if I exhibit them and someone wants to buy a copy of a photo where someone’s face is featured in a prominent manner? And what if it’s a group of people on a street? One can’t possibly get all releases at all times. Thoughts?

Artem on March 27, 2012

The issue is mostly the privacy rights of the subjects. If the person is not recognizable, or is not a significant part of the photo, then you’re probably OK. If a person can recognize themselves in your photo then you would be unwise to sell that photo without a model release.

model release, privacy, street photography


Reply by Anonymous

September 11, 2014

What determines the need for a release is whether a photo makes someone appear to support, advocate or promote ideas, products or services. The first amendment protects the right of "free speech," and allows you to sell pictures, art, anything newsworthy, or anything else that expresses your opinion. You cannot make it appear that anyone in your pictures support a cause, service, or product without their express permission, which would be given in a "model release."

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